Translink has recruited an impressive alliance of supporters for its proposed £27m Multi Modal Transport Hub at the old Waterside Railway Station ahead of Wednesday’s crucial Derry and Strabane District Council (DSDC) Planning Committee meeting in Strabane.
The public transport company has enlisted a who’s who of Ireland’s civic, business, and tourist leaders to vouch for its transformative proposals for the long disused Victorian building, which it believes can be a ‘game-changer’ for Derry,
Translink Head of Projects, John Glass, is hopeful local councillors will back its plans allowing it to re-open the riverfront site as a rail hub for the first time in 40 years in 2020.
He said: “This is a huge opportunity for the North-West region and represents a major investment in the city.
“It will transform travel and enhance connectivity between train, bus, and other sustainable transport modes.
"The hourly train service on the Derry~Londonderry line has already been a big success and we want a new facility that enables further growth for up to 650,000 passengers across the North West region helping to make public transport your first choice for travel.
“We have worked in close partnership with several organisations on both sides of the border to develop this proposal to build stronger north /south infrastructure links and encourage a modal shift from car to public transport and other healthier active travel options.”
Addressing some of the objections that have been raised against the proposals, including that a car park would cut the hub off from the riverside, Mr. Glass said: “It is the multi modal nature of the Transport Hub that has attracted the European funding for this project.
"By providing modern passenger facilities, combining a quality heritage space with next generation requirements, we will enhance the overall customer experience.
"The area outside has also been carefully designed to maximise the use of the land available. By removing the existing station and railway lines we are able to open up views over the River Foyle from the new Hub as well as provide important Park and Ride facilities for our customers.”
Several influential supporters have backed the project.
Jennifer McKeever, Chamber of Commerce President, said: “The plans in their current form are 100 per cent right for the city, and will breathe fresh life into this historic point of arrival and departure, as well as helping regenerate this area of our city and enhance the economy.”
Glyn Roberts, Chief Executive Retail NI, said: “By bringing together a range of transport modes, such as car, bus, rail and walking and cycling the Hub will make it as easy as possible for people to visit and shop in the city.”
Seamus Neely, Chief Executive Donegal County Council said: “The Council have a very strong working relationship with Derry City & Strabane District Council and welcome this development as part of the overall development of the region. “
Peter May, DFI Permanent Secretary Department for Infrastructure said: “The project builds upon the recently completed Derry~Londonderry to Coleraine rail improvement project.
“The transformation of a historic building into one fit for use today and for generations to come also complements the wider regeneration plans in the city.”
Irish transport minister, Shane Ross T.D., said: “This project will provide an impetus and focus for sustainable transport in the North West of this island. We all need to make greater use of public and sustainable transport modes and this new Hub will greatly assist in that regard.”
Gordon Clarke, Sustrans Director, said: “We Welcome the development of the North West Multi-Modal Transport Hub, in particular the inclusion of an Active Travel Centre which, with the connection to the Foyle Greenway network will provide greater opportunities for walking and cycling”.
Gina McIntyre, Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), CEO said: “This project will help meet one of the core objectives of the EU’s INTERREG VA Programme, which is to support investment in more sustainable transport provision for our growing population.
"Upon completion the hub will lead to greater cross-border connectivity and encourage more people to make ‘active’ journeys, either by foot or on a bicycle”
John McGrillen, Tourism NI CEO said: “Translink’s plans for a new multi modal transport hub will not only improve connectivity to and within the region but will also enhance the experience of visitors when arriving at the destination.
“We also welcome the proposals to refurbish the Grade B Listed building which will build on previous investment by Tourism NI in the refurbishment of the city’s built heritage which has been central to the growth in tourism which Derry~Londonderry has experienced in recent years.”
Odhran Dunne, General Manager, Visit Derry said: “Visit Derry welcomes the news that the development of the North West Multi-Modal Transport hub will provide the necessary infrastructure to attract the ‘Venice Simplon-Orient-Express’ train to the city.
"This is one of the leading international train tour operators and the potential inclusion of the NW in their travel itineraries of Ireland will attract new visitors to the historic Walled City.”
Angela McGowan, Regional Director CBI said: “Businesses on both sides of the border fully support the proposed Transport Hub and recognise its potential to transform public transport in the region, improve North/South connectivity and support economic prosperity. We would call on local planning authorities to progress the project without delay.”
Fergal O’Brien, Director of Policy and Chief Economist IBEC said: “Translink’s proposed North West Multi Modal Transport Hub is welcomed by businesses because it helps to address a very serious transport infrastructure deficit. Firms in the area have long sought additional investment to support their continuing growth and job creation.”
Mr. Glass welcomed the support and said Translink wished to deliver on the outcome of a 2013 public consultation, which showed 64 per cent of people favoured locating the new hub at the original Waterside Train Station.
He noted that in a further comprehensive pre-application consultation exercise undertaken in late 2016/early 2017, 92 per cent of 646 respondents agreed it was appropriate to reuse the old station.
“We believe that the Council’s planning committee will consider the proposals on its merits and provide a positive decision.
“We have invested heavily in the city in recent years, with track enhancements and new bus fleets. Subject to receiving planning approval, we look forward to working with local stakeholders to deliver this important scheme and create an iconic gateway to the city and North West region.”